We have come to know that Thanksgiving is an opportunity to express our gratitude and stuff ourselves with turkey, mashed potatoes, and other party dishes, but the holiday’s history is a bit more involved than that. The history of Thanksgiving is one of spectacle, entrepreneurial spirit, economic recovery, and of course, feasting.
These days, it is quite hard to find a Russian who does not celebrate Thanksgiving. In particular, immigrants, especially American, who arrived in have introduced Thanksgiving to locals and let them had some time to adjust to the holiday. Gradually, Russian people make it their own holiday through a unique blend of Russian and American elements.
When it comes to Thanksgiving celebration, Russian people really have keen eyes for details. They will make sure that none is overlooked. The food served during celebration is, of course, central. They usually serve classic Russian staples, such as salads, herring and beets, in order to enhance the traditionally turkey-centric menu.
There are a lot of facts regarding Thanksgiving in Russia, and to make things easier for you, I have rounded up 5 amazing facts of Thanksgiving in Russia. So, keep on reading.
- Most Popular Russian Thanksgiving Greeting
Thanksgiving is a day of giving thanks for everything we have in our lives. Words of greeting and wish allow us to connect on an emotional level with those who have touched our lives. So, sending personalized greeting cards will help us express a vast variety of sentiments to our family, friends, and loved ones. Here is the most popular Russian Thanksgiving greeting that Russian people are rooting each year: С Днём Благодарения! [z DNOYM bla-ga-da-RYE-nee-ya] which means Happy Thanksgiving!
- The Party Will Not Start Without Vodka
It is deemed as natural if drinking vodka is considered to be one of main traditions Russian people adhere to during Thanksgiving celebration. It is the custom of making toasts throughout the Thanksgiving dinner. Toasts are very important to Russian dinners, be it Thanksgiving one or other celebrations, because they are an opportunity to proclaim something and celebrate something. And, of course, Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to raise the glass and make a toast. The rules are simple. The vodka should be served chilled, accompanied with Russian traditional snacks. It is a well-established tradition that vodka will soften its taste, and that every party should drink it in one gulp.
Although vodka is traditional for toasting, Champagne and Cognac are also popular in Russia. They represent the new pleasures of conspicuous consumption.
- Russian Wedding Foods
The traditional Thanksgiving foods served mainly in the United State of America include turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, apple pie, and cranberry sauce. However, in Russia, food served during Thanksgiving celebration is Russian menu for wedding party, such as vinaigrette salad, smoked salmon with olives, cabbage wraps, and piroshki and rose cookies for desert. Since Russian people like to celebrate the holiday extravagantly, there are foods served up to thirty portions, it is basically a potluck meal for all the family and friends who come. Sometimes, they also serve the Russian-Soviet home cooking, finesse and funk, such as cured fish, pickled cherries, wild mushrooms, farmer’s cheese, and pumpernickel bread.
Point is they always bring with them the centuries-old traditions of Russian cooking and eating with some Soviet-era flourishes layered on top every celebration. And as was customary in the Soviet era, they celebrate it with a feast that eclipses every other holiday on their calendar.
- Adopting New Year’s Eve Celebration
New Year’s Eve remains the biggest holiday of the year in Russia, because Christmas, the Fourth of July kind of celebration, and Thanksgiving joint into one. The reasons for this date back to the years after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, when the wide properties of the Russian Orthodox Church were nationalized, religious instruction was outlawed, and believing in miracles was not allowed.
A decade later, the Soviet regime did not permit the celebration of Christmas. New Year’s Eve was then declared an official holiday, celebrated at midnight with certain concerts and fireworks. Gradually, Christmas traditions like Christmas trees, presents, and sweets moved into the New Year’s celebration, including a Santa figure called Grandfather Frost who distributes gifts with the help of his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden.
The modern celebration of Thanksgiving in Russia adopts that of New Year’s Eve where there is a family dinner that lasts well into the morning. Hot dishes are expected on dinner table, such as braised short ribs, Georgian chicken tabaka, and potatoes cooked in lush smetana.
- Slavic Harvest Festival
Festivals of thanks and celebrations of harvest, known as Thanksgiving, took place in Europe in the months of October and November. The very first Thanksgiving celebration was in North America. In Russia, there is a similar holiday exists called ‘Обжинки’ or Obzhynki, a Slavic harvest festival. In pre-Christian times, the festival usually fell on or after the autumn equinox following the end of the harvest season. It was initially associated with the pagan Slavic cult of plants, trees, and agriculture. Even though there are many regional varieties and traditions, most of them have some aspects in common which is the celebration of plenty through food and good company.
With true Russian hospitality and grace, some Russian people usually go for post-Thanksgiving dinner to hype up the day. They change the traditional main dish or the turkey with steamed balls. Steamed balls look like some Russified dim sum without a wrapper. Even though it is a departure from the usual roast Turkey that the traditional holiday meal offers, it is still a delicious and festive Russian alternative. Moreover, it will not make you feel stuffed in the slightest, just warmly satisfied and thankful.
So, those are 5 amazing facts of Thanksgiving in Russia. For many Russians who have moved overseas, Thanksgiving is basically their favorite holiday. It is a window to a culture that is now theirs, too.